Snow Valley – Gaylord

A view of the electric rope tow, Snow Valley Ski Club, west side of Otsego Lake near Gaylord, Michigan

Snow Valley was a small ski club south and west of Gaylord, MI in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. Like many ski areas in that part of the state, the lodge was at the top of the hill and you skied down to the bottom of the lifts, all ropes as I remember.

On Dec. 21, 1951, The Ludington Daily News snow report listed Snow Valley with a 10″ base. Ten years later, on Feb. 10, 1961, the same paper listed Snow Valley as having 5″ fresh powder over an 8″ base for excellent skiing.

Snow Valley patch

Snow Valley closed in 1968 (due to a fire in the lodge?) after 20 successful years of operation. On October 27, 1968 an article in the Detroit Free Press listed Snow Valley as one of 7 ski areas that would cease operations that year, although they noted that the owners hoped to rebuild the lodge after the fire. However, that did not happen, and the area was later purchased and became Beaver Creek Resort according to the Otsego Chamber of Commerce 50th Anniversary History.

Here are some pictures of a Snow Valley Ski Club brochure sent to us by Ed Kovak.

If you have any reminiscences of skiing at Snow Valley, please post them or send them to us via the directions on the About MILSAP page.

35 Responses to Snow Valley – Gaylord

  1. Mike Little says:

    Hello. I worked at Snow Valley in 1964 and 1965 as both ski patrol and ski instructor. Like alot of ski bums I did whatever it took to live at the lodge and ski… wait tables, work the door at the bar, drive the snow plow… what ever. The spring of 1965 my draft notice came. I have not been able to ski since Viet Nam.
    One of the things I did at Snow Valley was help install a chair lift. Good times, good people, good memories. Thanks to a friend in Charlevoix that sent the web site to me here in the Arizona desert. M. Little

  2. Bob Lindsteadt says:

    I remember snow valley well. Never skied there (didn’t learn until years later when I was living in Ca.) However, that’s another story for another time. I went to school with Nelly Wells, the daughter of the owner of snow valley, and my dad bought a frozen custard machine from her father after I went into the navy. He wrote and told me later to take up refrigeration as a trade as it would make me rich. He said he’d had a refrigeration man practically living with him ever since he had installed it! (LOL!)

  3. Susan Biglin Stambersky says:

    My husband, Art Stambersky and I met on front lift. He came up the lift and said to me, “Nice day isn’t it?” It was a beautiful day, a warm sunny day. We met later in the dining room and have been together since that day. We are both retired now and still skiing. Did a trip to Killington, Vermont this Christmas.
    Snow Valley was an interesting area. You skied down into a bowl, having to take the lift back to the top.

  4. Doug Lippert says:

    I lived on the other side of West Otsego Lake Drive and cut my teeth at Sylvan Knob and The Pinnacles, as we moved to Gaylord in ’67 and by the time I began skiing, Snow Valley was no longer operational. I recall, however, that my mom would have fun saying, after the resort was no more, that there “sno valley.” (There was no valley).
    I’ve always wondered, though…what would happen if you were caught at the bottom of the bowl when the lift ceased operation? Would you then be stuck and have to herringbone your way to the top?

    • Not sure about Snow Valley, but Indianhead (in the UP) also has the lodge at the top. When I was at Indianhead, at the end of the day, they would put a barricade across the top so you could not ski down and would run the lifts until the hills were empty.

  5. Doug Donaldson says:

    Born in 1958 I skied @ Snow Valley as a young boy. A client of my father”s had an interest in the place. I remember him passing us on I-75 during a snowstorm heading back to Det in a Tornado relishing in the traction of one of the 1st front wheel drive cars. I earned a patch loke the one on the website for staying out all day w/o a break. good childhood memorys of leather skiboots ,wooden Northland skis w/ cable bindings and safetystraps and minimalist needs.

  6. Barb Kent says:

    I recall a snow train going down the hills when I was young. My grandparents a small resort on the west side of Otsego Lake, and we would go on the train. Would love to see pictures.

  7. Gary Chomiak says:

    My parents were part owners of Snow Valley in 1960. Jerry & Hazel Chomiak along with my uncle’s family the Smith’s began the lodge. I recall the construction along with my tree house behind the manager’s home. Some of my earliest & best memories are of the year (1960) that I lived there. I’ve recently come across an advertisement in an unknown newspaper. The ad was sponsored by Otsego County & the focus is “7 ski resorts within 20 miles of Gaylord”. It has a full page ad for the. “New Snow Valley” & a half page on Hidden Valley.
    I would be glad to share it with the Host of this webpage. I would love to see it on this sight and credit given to my parents on managing the construction of the “New” Lodge.
    Gary Chomiak.

    • Frank Presti Jr. says:

      Gary, my name is Frank Presti Jr. My father worked for Rich-Wall Tile Comapny for about 25 years. The company was owned by Richard Smith and Walter Guglar s.p. They also owned Snow Valley for a time. I assume “Dick” was your uncle! I also worked at the company in the mid 60’s and spent some weekends in the summer working at the resort. Very fond memories of that.

  8. Gary Chomiak says:

    BTW: I proudly remember sporting the patch shown above along with the Junior Ski Patrol.

  9. John Baker says:

    My small memory goes back to the early 1950’s. I was born in 1950, and around 1955or 56, my parents would take me to White Birch Resort on the West side of Otsego Lake. This is now Lambert’s Lakeside Lodges, and the cottages have been beautifully restored. In those early years, they took me on a ride at Snow Valley called “The Weezil.”, scenic mountain ride. 2 weeks ago I found a photograph if this old ride that was basically a rail car on tracks. I very vaguely remember it was scary and I think it was red and had a siren. Does anyone else remember this ride? Are there any pictures out there?

    • Bill Climie says:

      I remember the trolley car and the lodge. In the 50’s we camped at the state park every summer for 2,3 decades with the Elmer Knopf family from Flint, Mi. The lodge was a favorite watering hole for the adults. My parents bought a 45 record from a band that played there, although I can’t find it. One side had an instrumental of “Summertime.”

  10. Doug Lippert says:

    Chad, you are so right and that had completely slipped my mind. I only skied at Indian Head once and that was exactly the situation. Thanks for jogging my memory.

    Good grief…it all seems like a lifetime ago and so very, very far away.

  11. Rich Drouillard says:

    Long ago and so far away in my memory…
    As a teenager, I began skiing at Snow Valley. Our family was from Saginaw and in the 60’s and my Mom as an RN took care of the son of a ski instructor family after he had a very bad accident. The details are rather foggy after these 50 years, but I remember fondly the beautiful way that this family accommodated us in return for Mom’s care of their son. He returned to pretty good health after having been in serious coma if I remember correctly.
    This whole set of memories is just so warming. Makes me think of many other good things from the past. I’m just smiling as I recount…
    If anyone knows of this family and would care to relate, I’d enjoy hearing.
    Thanks for rekindling these thoughts! & May God Bless!

  12. hostirad says:

    Our family lived in Ann Arbor during the 1950s, and I have clear memories of skiing somewhere up north when I was about four years old. My vivid memories included having my father holding me from behind, sort of between his legs for a few runs until I began to get a feel for gliding down the hill. I had these little red wooden skis, only about 2 or 3 feet long. I also remember the wonderful feeling of hanging on to the rope tow as it pulled me up the hill. And how cozy it was in the lodge. I never knew the location of these ski trip until today, when sorting through some old family photographs I found a picture of me on skis with my father and a post card that said Snow Valley Ski Club, Gaylord, MI. Sorry to learn that the lodge burned down, but it is a joy reading all of the stories here from people who skied at Snow Valley.

  13. Doug Lippert says:

    What a wonderful post and recollection. Thank you. As this 61 year old guy whines about the cold weather, he remembers how cold never stopped him from skiing or snowmobiling when he was a kid in Gaylord.

  14. Gary Chomiak says:

    In 1959 my parents, Jerry & Hazel Chomiak, became part owners, residents, and the managers of Snow Valley.
    I was 5 years old and had never done any skiing. My memories are not only fond, but, very vivid. At least those that I remember. My first recollection of skiing was on the bunny slope there. I wore rubber boots…..the kind with ladder clasps and cable bindings. Thus began my 55+ year love affair with the sport of downhill skiing.
    One of the unique features at Snow Valley, that you won’t find at any ski resorts today, is a jump. It was constructed of old timbers, and, I’m guessing was about 6 ft above the slope. Lawyers and visitors weren’t quite as suit prone in those days allowing for a bit more adventure.
    We were only there a year, but, a year full of fun and adventure for a 5/6 year old boy and his dog.

  15. Sam Metcalf says:

    Our family skied at Snow Valley for many years in the 50’s. Great family skiing resort as all runs came together at the bottom of the valley so it was easy to move between ski runs and all rope tows. The main lodge at the top of the hill overlooked the valley and had a four sided fireplace in the middle of the room, ticket sales, bar/dining area, dance floor, bowling alleys, metal toboggan run and return tow. Many buses with students from Michigan State etc. We always stayed at Northernaire Motel with its log cabins and railroad track across the street that we would put pennies on the track when flattened to the size of a fifty cent piece if hit by the locomotive. Always ate at family owned Schlangs Barvarian Restaurant with good German food and lots of coco clocks.

  16. Maureen Christian says:

    Very interested in the history of this beautiful area and wondering where the lodge was located? Would it have been where the current huge indoor pool building is at Benjamin’s Beaver Creek Resort? Might it have been where the clubhouse for The Natural golf course is now??? Am I right that there were 20 runs? Do some of the holes at The Natural follow those old runs??? I would love to know! Thanks!

    • Bob Sisco says:

      I just played the Natural Friday 5/31/19 and looking from the tee at hole 14 par 3 with a hundred foot vertical drop at the Beaver Creek water slide it looks like the “bowl” or ski area would have been in that area. Obviously the trees have grown in. There is not enough drop where the Natural clubhouse is further north.
      On a aerial there is a Snow Valley ski club road.

      • Bob Sisco says:

        Looks on the aerial they made a pond or small lake at the bottom of the bowl

      • Maureen Christian says:

        THANKS!!! Love camping there and will again in a few weeks. Will walk the course and imagine what it must have been like!!!

  17. Bob Kearful says:

    Snow Valley gave me a lot of good memories in the 50s. This web search was my attempt at finding the exact location of “Snow Valley” behind Otsego Lake. i was born in 1936 and raised in Saginaw. During the War, Tom Snyder (Personal Mgr at Saginaw Steering Gear), taught me to ski on the Hill that covered the Waterworks, water tanks (Herringbone up; snowplow down). After the War he would regularly take a few adults & me to ski days at Snow Valley, (where he later organized their Ski Patrol). Now Snow Valley was even better than skiing “fire-breaks” on the way up to Gaylord. in 1947 Tom took me to ski Otsego Ski Club, the first year it was open. Now we have a cottage on Big Lake & ski Otsego regularly in later years. Snow Valley still has big memories for me as my “learning center” on through college at MSU. Proudly i still have my very first Ski Race Metal, that reads: “1953, Snow Valley, Slalom”.
    From my heart, thanks to everyone ever associated with dear old Snow Valley.
    Steamboat Springs has been home for the past 15 years; skied 95 days last season – several Masters Races. Cheers to all, Bob.

    • Jane Deters says:

      I found this website by accident when I did a search on Snow Valley, Gaylord, MI. It was great to read Bob Kearful’s message — I’m Jane Deters — Tom Snyder’s youngest daughter. I, too, have great memories of Snow Valley growing up. We would travel every weekend from Saginaw when Dad was in charge of the ski patrol. I was on the junior patrol and my sister, Beth, followed my dad into the National Ski Patrol. Dad was very active in the NSP and established many ski patrols throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. He was awarded the NSP’s highest award in 1964 — the Nation’s Outstanding Ski Patrolman. I have worked many years to see if I could get him inducted into the NSP Hall of Fame. This finally happened this fall at the Central Division’s fall meeting. What an honor it was for me to accept his award.

      • Bob Kearful says:

        Hello Jane Deters, a very good feeling to meet my world class mentor, Tom Snyder’s daughter. Somehow i remember Tom had a couple of daughters; you have a lot of family linage to make you proud. Several years ago i searched for your names and addresses (for my Christmas card list you know). Nothing but “blanks” until now! Thank you for your response and for sharing your memories, This year will be my 75 consecutive year of Alpine Skiing thanks 100% to your father, for including me (as an 8 year old boy) with his group of Saginaw Steering Gear adults that he taught to ski at the Saginaw Water Works and on to Fire Breaks up-north and of course, “Snow Valley.”
        My family love to Tom”s family tree,
        Cheers, Bob Kearful
        PS: many times your dad would have me lay in the snow, wrapped around a tree, to have his Ski Patrol trainees; splint and evacuate me!! Later his influence rubbed off on me; I was an active NSPS patrol member for 22 years; Thank you Tom Snyder.

  18. Linda Gugler Walsh-Lapinski says:

    I am the oldest daughter of Wally Gugler, owner of Snow Valley with Dick Smith in the early to mid 60’s, they were also partners in RichWall Tile Company. I remember, Snow Valley. It is where I learned to ski. I remember the ski lift. It was a newly added feature. I also remember the Friday fish fries and the newly built Motel. I helped working in the Motel and at the Friday Fish Fries. It was my first job.
    I also remember that in the mid 60’s the snow belt area of Gaylord experienced little snow. A hard time for the resort. This was before snow making machines.

    I loved the Gaylord area. The Sugar Bowl, Hidden Valley, Styles Real Estate are places I remember. Otsego Lake is where we would go swimming on a hot summer day. I have firends that still have a cottage on the lake.

    As an adult, my family and I would visit Gaylord every year as we traveled to Petoskey and the ski slopes there. We even had a home on Tee Lake in Lewiston. Very fond memories of these places in Michigan.

    • Barb Kent says:

      So many fond memories of Snow Valley. I was very young when I would go with my Brothers up to Gaylord, usually on the train to visit my Grandparent’s. They lived on Otsego Lake and had a resort. The only thing I remember when I was you is the train that went up the slopes, but like I said I was young. My brother’s remember much more.
      We would always go to the Sugar Bowl restaurant in town for dinner. We loved Otsego Lake, as a adult when I am up there I always cruise where my Grandparent’s resort was. Nothing in owned by family.
      A lot of cousins still live up in that area.

  19. Beth Jochen says:

    M To Bob Kearful – I’m Tom Snyder’s older daughter, Beth Snyder Jochen. How wonderful to read such glowing words about my dad. When I was in high school and college, I worked the ski patrol with Dad most weekends from Thanksgiving to Easter. I, too, learned to ski in the late 40’s on Waterworks hill in Saginaw. Until I became a member of the National Ski Patrol, I skied Skyline, West Branch, Boyne Mountain, Otsego, and many others. My husband and I spent our honeymoon at Caberfae. Also skied Aspen and Vail when we lived in the Denver area and patrolled at an area (forgot the name) in Ohio. Dad and I both patrolled at Apple Mountain in Saginaw. A friend of ours, John Weber, from Saginaw, took the idea that created Apple Mountain and did the same just north of Kearney, Nebraska. That area closed when John moved away. I no longer ski, but I have wonderful memories of the years at Snow Valley. Did you know Dick Bresser or Bob Heiler? There were several other patrollers and instructors whose names I can’t remember.

    • Bob Kearful says:

      Hello Snow Valley Sports fans! Thank you Beth Jochen for saying hello; it makes me feel very good to talk with one of my “ski mentor’s” daughters. Seems that we may have met, eyeball to eyeball back in the 60’s. Your dad Tom Snyder gave me the ski passion that i have maintained (this will be my 61 year on the slopes). in 1960, i was fresh out of college (MSU) and working as a production foreman at Saginaw Steering Gear, when John Bintz opened Apple Mountain Just outside of Saginaw. The word went out that they needed a Ski Patrol, so my buddy and I checked it out. They sent us to Nub’s Knob for a weekend of training and testing (we were clueless) — we passed, and became NSPS Ski Patrol members of this fledgling ski area patrol. That was very important in shaping my life just as your dad taking me to Snow Valley in the 50’s created my confidence on skis. Patrolling was a major family event for my three daughters too (every Thursday evening from 5yrs to teens; ie. “rat packing” with other patrol kids at Alpine Valley MI, Wilmot WI. and Winter Park CO etc. Beth, there is nothing like family, and a binding activity. My 6 grand kids all learned to ski when they were 3 and have thrived on the comradery and spirit of the sport.
      For me it all started with your dad Tom Snyder at the waterworks hill in Saginaw, and then on to Snow Valley, Apple Mountain, and many more. Thanks for the Hello, and best wishes to you and your extended family.
      Cheers, Bob Kearful
      Steamboat Springs, CO
      PS: i don’t remember Dick Bresser or Bob Heiler, but my 83 year old mind sometimes slips.

      • Beth Jochen says:

        Thank you for your kind words. They brought back some wonderful memories of skiing at Snow Valley and Apple Mountain. We don’t do a lot of skiing out here on the prairie, but my kids and grandkids take occasional trips to Colorado for some skiing. Blessings to you and your family. Beth Snyder Jochen

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